What kind of a pope hath the Catholic Church today? A liberal? A modernist? A Lutheran? A charismatic? A liberation theologian? A socialist? A Catholic? A phenomenologist? We see all of these strains and more in the writings, homilies, interviews, and actions of Pope Francis. The only consistency is a nasty impatience with Catholic doctrine, and the absolute priority of human experience over any other consideration. The rest is, quite frankly, an incomprehensible mess.
This baffling incoherence is leading some to question whether Pope Francis is actually of sound mind. Open speculation about the Holy Father possibly suffering the early stages of dementia arose within several months of his election. He seems not to be aware that he contradicts himself (and the Church) continually, and embarrassingly.
For my part, I am aware that Pope Francis has been educated under Modernist influences from his earliest years in seminary; that Modernism is a flight from reality; and that a mental habit of fleeing from reality eventually destroys one’s rational faculties. So, I’m not yet convinced that Pope Francis is suffering from a biologically-induced mental decline along the lines of dementia. It seems more likely that his intelligence has suffered because of the contradictions in his theological worldview, and his habitual avoidance of difficult or painful truths.
Nevertheless, the dementia hypothesis is gaining traction and may one day be vindicated. The prospect should move every good Catholic to a sentiment of compassion for the Holy Father. Blogger Laurence England of That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill gives expression to this concern:
“Is Pope Francis okay? I mean, is he okay? I know that we can all quite happily overlook our own sins and bothersome personality traits. We can all be a bit hypocritical and recognise in others more quickly those faults that are our own, but I agree with Veneremur Cernui that there is something about Pope Francis’s homilies and speeches that almost demands some call for a papal ‘reality check’ …
The way in which papal homilies are going nowadays indicate a Pope who does not have a healthy relationship with reality and I say that as someone who enjoys escaping reality a great deal.”
“I am so confused by this Papacy I don’t have a clue what is going on, where the Pope really stands on anything. I’m still left a little confused. In fact, every day I find his comments and the lack of transparency in Rome confusing. I’m confused at the ‘de-Ratzingerisation’ of the Vatican. There is nothing terribly clear about this papacy. It’s like driving in a dense fog. Even when his opinion is made clear on something, you still have a nagging feeling that that is simply the opinion (life imprisonment, the death penalty, the Big Bang, evolution etc) of Jorge Bergoglio, the man, rather than that of the more hitherto carefully constructed and balanced positions of the Catholic Church.”
“Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40
It’s official: Pope Francis has a problem with the First Commandment.
The first sign was his homily on July 3, 2013, in which he said that knowledge of Jesus Christ cannot be arrived at through “meditation”, which in his words is the “path of the gnostics”. Meditation – which might also be called contemplation or adoration – is a work that is focused on God alone, and has been the vehicle for countless saints in their ascent to God. According to the pope, one can only find Jesus through “His wounds … [in] the body of your wounded brother” – that is, through loving one’s neighbor.
The second sign was his bold inversion of the commandments as given to us by Jesus. In his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (par 161), the pope stated that the “first and greatest of the commandments” is to “love one another”, which of course is contrary to the words of Our Lord in Sacred Scripture. This mistake is so obvious and fundamental that I expected it to be corrected eventually. But, alas, eleven months later it’s still there in the document. As every Catholic schoolboy has been taught, the first and greatest commandment is “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind”. Jesus could hardly have taught otherwise, as the First Commandment of the Decalogue imposes this primary obligation upon all believers.
The revolutionary nature of this error cannot be overstated. It undermines the Church’s entire theology. There are, after all, Christian duties that are prior to love of neighbor. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that adherence to the First Commandment – which derives from the love of God – demands sacrifice, worship, and adoration; the assent of faith to all that God has revealed; obedience to the divine and natural law; and public witness to divine truth. The Catechism states clearly that “adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion” and is directed to God alone. The First Commandment also forbids sins like idolatry, witchcraft, superstition, blasphemy, sacrilege, heresy, schism, apostasy, atheism, agnosticism, voluntary doubt, religious indifference, despair, and presumption. Whereas obedience to the commandment to love God results naturally in the love of neighbor, the same cannot be said of the reverse. The love of God is the necessary foundation for properly loving one’s neighbor.
And now we have more confusion on the matter from Pope Francis. It’s simply not credible to say that his previous statements were just careless “off the cuff” musings, mistranslations, or media spin. No, Pope Francis has a real problem with the First Commandment. In yesterday’s Angelus the pope chose a different approach. Rather than ignore the first and greatest commandment altogether, as he has done in the past, he chose to present the first and greatest commandment (i.e., the love of man for God), and the second which is like unto it (i.e., the love of man for neighbor), as though they are totally merged without hierarchy or distinction, as though one did not have priority over the other. It is the error of false equivalence. The practical effect is the same as before: seek God in your neighbor first, to the exclusion of divinely revealed truth (doctrine) and the demands it imposes. Vatican Insider/La Stampa reports:
“In the midst of the dense forest of rules and regulations – the legalisms of yesterday and today – Jesus shines a ray of light that helps us to make out two faces: the face of the Father and that of our brother,” Pope Francis said at today’s Angelus. “Today’s Gospel reminds us that the whole law of God is summed up in love for God and neighbour.” The “novelty” of Christ’s teaching consists “in the union of the two commandments – love of God and love of neighbour – proving that they are inseparable and complementary, they are two sides of the same coin.” …
“Remember this: love is the measure of faith,” Francis said speaking off the cuff. “How much do you love? What is your faith like? I believe as much as I love.” “A visible sign that the Christian can show to witness God’s love to the world and to others, to his family, is the love of his brethren,” Francis observed. This is why, he explained, “the commandment of love of God and neighbour is the first, because it is not high on the list of the commandments. Jesus does not put it at the top, but at the center, it is the heart from which everything eradicates and to which everything returns.”
Ah, so the two commandments are now merged as one! And this new merged commandment of Francis is not even “high on the list of commandments” or “at the top” – that’s too much like the old scholasticism, I suppose – but “at the center”, whatever that means. Are the commandments are now arranged in a circle? And aren’t we supposed to start with the existential peripheries? Nevermind …
The 32nd annual Western Open Fiddle Competition was launched in Red Bluff today. This is always a welcome respite from work and the worries of life. I can’t adequately describe how relieved I was to see old familiar faces – not close friends, but people I see at all the contests, all ages, everyone in a jovial mood. Strangers saying hello and goodbye. Music in every corridor. The live entertainment was light-hearted, funny, toe-tapping, rejuvenating. Children playing everywhere: innocence, wild and free.
The California Old Time Fiddlers Association survives on the work of self-less volunteers who love the old time fiddling tradition, donating countless hours without remuneration of any kind. I have the privilege of knowing some of these generous souls, and meeting new ones at every contest.
I would estimate that fifty percent or more of the youngest competitors are home schooled. One of the perks of these contests – for home schooling families, at any rate – is that the children have the opportunity to perform on stage in front of the multitudes from a very young age. To a friendly and appreciative crowd. Our little Annie Jo (age 6) earned 6th place in the PeeWee division today. Her older sister, Amanda (age 11), earned 1st Place in the Junior Junior Division. Here’s the round of tunes that led to Amanda’s prize:
And here’s Christopher (age 16) in the Junior Picking Division on his new mandolin:
A link and a nod to One Peter Five is long overdue. If you’re not already reading this website, it isn’t too late to start. Read the archives, too. They’re rich, rich, rich.
Have you ever wondered why all those deathbed conversions are conversions to Catholicism, and little else? I remember the first time I met a real Catholic priest. A Lutheran with Lutheran prejudices, I was nevertheless in awe … and then subsequently dejected at the priest’s tragic worldliness. (He was a Jesuit, alas.) There is just something about the Catholic Church. Everyone – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – instinctively looks to the Church and her priests for holiness and spiritual power.
“Why should men love the Church? … She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they like to be soft.” – T.S. Eliot
Whether it’s the crisis of an impending death, a personal tragedy, or a haunted house, men turn to the Catholic Church when in distress. And so it was with the Cranmers of Pittsburgh. Steve Skojec of One Peter Five introduces the fascinating story of a non-Catholic family who found their home occupied by evil spirits, and who naturally turned to the Church for help:
“For two years, a private demonologist, protestant ministers, and most importantly, Catholic exorcists, worked to remove the demonic presence from the Cranmer family home. Victory was finally achieved through exorcism and the celebration of Mass at the house in 2006. The details of the story are unnerving, to say the least. A local report on what transpired provides more detail …”
“[T]here is the legal problem of matrimonial nullity, this has to be reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this”. – Pope Francis, 28 July 2013
“Can we eliminate the necessity of having detailed personal interviews, hefty fees, testimony from witnesses, psychological exams, and automatic appeals to other tribunals? In lieu of this formal court-like process, which some participants have found intimidating, can we rely more on the conscientious personal judgment of spouses about the history of their marriage (after all, they are the ministers and recipients of the sacrament!) and their worthiness to receive Holy Communion?” – Bishop Thomas Tobin, 21 September 2014
“CANON XII. If any one saith, that matrimonial causes do not belong to ecclesiastical judges; let him be anathema.” – Council of Trent, Session XXIV, 11 November 1543
Pope Francis likes to say that God is full of surprises. Actually, it is Pope Francis who is full of surprises, and they just keep coming fast and furiously. Like a Porsche. These days they are coming so fast that I’m more surprised when there is a day without papal surprises. In any case, the latest jaw-dropper: The Holy Father is renting out the Sistine Chapel to Porsche AG for one of their corporate galas. This is part of a new initiative for soliciting corporate donations for the pope’s charity projects. The article states that the Vatican wants to retain the visitor cap at six million per year to protect the artwork: that means more wealthy corporate executives, and fewer regular Catholics on pilgrimage.
“Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” – Luke 18:8
Today, the first official document of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family was released. Suffice it to say that the document doesn’t even bother in the least to present Catholic teaching on the family. The whole document is an exercise in modernist tactics of persuasion by means of doctrinal ambiguity, and by unsettling that which is settled. But the most sinister passages depart clearly from the Catholic Faith. First, the document opens the door explicitly to holy communion for those who are publicly living in objectively adulterous unions:
46. In the same way the situation of the divorced who have remarried demands a careful discernment and an accompaniment full of respect, avoiding any language or behavior that might make them feel discriminated against. For the Christian community looking after them is not a weakening of its faith and its testimony to the indissolubility of marriage, but rather it expresses precisely its charity in its caring.
47. As regards the possibility of partaking of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, some argued in favor of the present regulations because of their theological foundation, others were in favor of a greater opening on very precise conditions when dealing with situations that cannot be resolved without creating new injustices and suffering. For some, partaking of the sacraments might occur were it preceded by a penitential path – under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop – and with a clear undertaking in favor of the children. This would not be a general possibility, but the fruit of a discernment applied on a case-by-case basis, according to a law of gradualness, that takes into consideration the distinction between state of sin, state of grace and the attenuating circumstances.
48. Suggesting limiting themselves to only “spiritual communion” was questioned by more than a few Synodal Fathers: if spiritual communion is possible, why not allow them to partake in the sacrament? As a result a greater theological study was requested starting with the links between the sacrament of marriage and the Eucharist in relation to the Church-sacrament. In the same way, the moral dimension of the problem requires further consideration, listening to and illuminating the consciences of spouses.
49. The problems relative to mixed marriages were frequently raised in the interventions of the Synodal Fathers. The differences in the matrimonial regulations of the Orthodox Churches creates serious problems in certain contexts to which have to be found suitable responses in communion with the Pope. The same applies to inter-religious marriages.
Second, the document asserts that homosexuals (the term strongly implies that these persons are sexually active, or at least not striving to be chaste while struggling with same-sex attraction) have “gifts and qualities” to offer the Church as homosexuals, and even more scandalously, that the Church should be “accepting and valuing” of homosexual orientation itself:
50. Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?
51. The question of homosexuality leads to a serious reflection on how to elaborate realistic paths of affective growth and human and evangelical maturity integrating the sexual dimension: it appears therefore as an important educative challenge. The Church furthermore affirms that unions between people of the same sex cannot be considered on the same footing as matrimony between man and woman. Nor is it acceptable that pressure be brought to bear on pastors or that international bodies make financial aid dependent on the introduction of regulations inspired by gender ideology.
52. Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to the children who live with couples of the same sex, emphasizing that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.
It needn’t be pointed out that homosexual relationships (there is no such thing as “unions”) might be the context for some good things. There has always been honor among thieves. What is most telling about this document is what it doesn’t say: nowhere are the faithful warned of the temporal and eternal consequences of sexual sin; nowhere are homosexuals, adulterers, fornicators, or those who commit other sins against Christian marriage called to repentance and conversion; nowhere are those in irregular “unions” called to live chastely in order to receive holy communion; nowhere are the faithful given the hope of being delivered from their sins and living in a state of grace; nowhere is the salvation of souls included as a priority. Clearly, the whole thrust of this document is to weaken the Church’s resolve in opposing the forces of modernity in redefining the family, even at the expense of doctrine.
This disgraceful “relatio post disceptationem” must be repudiated by good Catholics at every level, and this train-wreck of a Synod publicly denounced.
Blessed John Henry Newman – like many nuanced and complex thinkers – has the unhappy burden of being misunderstood by just about everybody. He dedicated his life to fighting against liberalism in religion, becoming one of its most formidable enemies. His effectiveness was undoubtedly due, in part, not only to his powers of persuasion, but also to the example he presented as a powerful intellect and evidently liberal (in the classic sense meaning “free”) personality devoting itself to the service of … dogma. Catholic dogma! If Newman is for it, there must be something to it! Nevertheless he was also intellectually satisfying and persuasive, assisting the conversions of multitudes to the eternal Catholic Faith. These days, however, one often finds Newman disingenuously adopted by the very same liberals who Newman would have eaten for breakfast if he had the opportunity. I have long wondered how most of the nation’s heterodox “Newman Centers” on university campuses get away with the name. The only possible explanation is that they know nothing about Newman’s work beyond, perhaps, a rude caricature of his theory of conscience.
At the same time there have always been a number of Catholics who have suspected and even accused Newman of the very liberalism he condemned. And to be honest, his critics aren’t entirely wrong. Newman breathed the cultural air of Oxford liberalism for much of his life: these were the people he was arguing with, these were the minds he had to convince, and it seems clear that he adopted some of their premises for the sake of common ground. We should expect that he shared much of this common ground even without consciously embracing it. But I have to maintain that Newman’s liberalism – yes, the term is fair if used in context – was largely a matter of temperament and process, not religion, and though it did lead to mistakes in my opinion, on balance it did not pose a threat to the integral Catholic faith he professed and defended. On the contrary, Newman’s thought opened the doors to a perfectly legitimate investigative approach to Catholicism that most intellectuals felt was heretofore closed to them. Would that all Catholics were as “liberal” as Newman!
But don’t take my word for it. As the result of a brief discussion with a friend this afternoon, I found online a letter from Pope St. Pius X himself defending Newman against his critics – a rebuke not only to traditionalists who revere Pope St. Pius X and revile Newman, but also to certain liberals for whom Newman is the hero and Pius X the villain. I reproduce the letter here in its entirety.
In which Pope Pius X approves the work of the Bishop of Limerick
on the writings of Cardinal Newman.
To his Venerable Brother
Edward Thomas Bishop of Limerick
Venerable Brother, greetings and Our Apostolic blessing. We hereby inform you that your essay, in which you show that the writings of Cardinal Newman, far from being in disagreement with Our Encyclical Letter Pascendi, are very much in harmony with it, has been emphatically approved by Us: for you could not have better served both the truth and the dignity of man.
It is clear that those people whose errors We have condemned in that Document had decided among themselves to produce something of their own invention with which to seek the commendation of a distinguished person. And so they everywhere assert with confidence that they have taken these things from the very source and summit of authority, and that therefore We cannot censure their teachings, but rather that We had even previously gone so far as to condemn what such a great author had taught.
Incredible though it may appear, although it is not always realised, there are to be found those who are so puffed up with pride that it is enough to overwhelm the mind, and who are convinced that they are Catholics and pass themselves off as such, while in matters concerning the inner discipline of religion they prefer the authority of their own private teaching to the pre-eminent authority of the Magisterium of the Apostolic See. Not only do you fully demonstrate their obstinacy but you also show clearly their deceitfulness.
For, if in the things he had written before his profession of the Catholic faith one can justly detect something which may have a kind of similarity with certain Modernist formulas, you are correct in saying that this is not relevant to his later works. Moreover, as far as that matter is concerned, his way of thinking has been expressed in very different ways, both in the spoken word and in his published writings, and the author himself, on his admission into the Catholic Church, forwarded all his writings to the authority of the same Church so that any corrections might be made, if judged appropriate.
Regarding the large number of books of great importance and influence which he wrote as a Catholic, it is hardly necessary to exonerate them from any connection with this present heresy. And indeed, in the domain of England, it is common knowledge that Henry Newman pleaded the cause of the Catholic faith in his prolific literary output so effectively that his work was both highly beneficial to its citizens and greatly appreciated by Our Predecessors: and so he is held worthy of office whom Leo XIII, undoubtedly a shrewd judge of men and affairs, appointed Cardinal; indeed he was very highly regarded by him at every stage of his career, and deservedly so.
Truly, there is something about such a large quantity of work and his long hours of labour lasting far into the night that seems foreign to the usual way of theologians: nothing can be found to bring any suspicion about his faith. You correctly state that it is entirely to be expected that where no new signs of heresy were apparent he has perhaps used an off-guard manner of speaking to some people in certain places, but that what the Modernists do is to falsely and deceitfully take those words out of the whole context of what he meant to say and twist them to suit their own meaning.
We therefore congratulate you for having, through your knowledge of all his writings, brilliantly vindicated the memory of this eminently upright and wise man from injustice: and also for having, to the best of your ability, brought your influence to bear among your fellow-countrymen, but particularly among the English people, so that those who were accustomed to abusing his name and deceiving the ignorant should henceforth cease doing so.
Would that they should follow Newman the author faithfully by studying his books without, to be sure, being addicted to their own prejudices, and let them not with wicked cunning conjure anything up from them or declare that their own opinions are confirmed in them; but instead let them understand his pure and whole principles, his lessons and inspiration which they contain. They will learn many excellent things from such a great teacher: in the first place, to regard the Magisterium of the Church as sacred, to defend the doctrine handed down inviolately by the Fathers and, what is of highest importance to the safeguarding of Catholic truth, to follow and obey the Successor of St. Peter with the greatest faith.
To you, therefore, Venerable Brother, and to your clergy and people, We give Our heartfelt thanks for having taken the trouble to help Us in Our reduced circumstances by sending your communal gift of financial aid: and in order to gain for you all, but first and foremost for yourself, the gifts of God’s goodness, and as a testimony of Our benevolence, We affectionately bestow Our Apostolic blessing.
Given in Rome at St. Peter’s, on 10 March 1908, in the fifth year of Our Pontificate.
Pius PP. X
“Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial
that will shake the faith of many believers.” – CCC 675
What was once unthinkable for many loyal Catholics has now become a necessity: open, public opposition to the designs of a pope. That is because Pope Francis is pushing hard for “reforms” that constitute a positive threat to every Christian marriage. You, Mr. and Mrs. Catholic, need to take this direct attack very personally. If there were ever any doubt that Pope Francis himself is behind the push to undermine Catholic discipline on marriage and the sacraments, that doubt should be firmly dispelled by his actions of the past year. He called an Extraordinary Synod specifically for this purpose. He has been constantly dropping un-subtle hints in his interviews, homilies, exhortations, and public acts. He has appointed men who support this agenda to positions of great influence. Likewise, he has removed or marginalized influential prelates who seemed likely to resist, most shockingly the brilliant and devout Cardinal Raymond Burke. The pope has now established a commission to completely “streamline” the annulment process, something no one expected to happen until after the Synod. He is obviously in a hurry and wants to keep the Synod fathers in check. The result will probably look a lot like what Bishop Tobin recently proposed (something he would never have dared to suggest without positive signals from Rome), effectively making annulments as easy to obtain as a no-fault divorce.
If Pope Francis succeeds in his designs, the traditional presumption of validity – so essential to the legal protection of marriage – will be turned on its head. Every Christian marriage will be perceived as a candidate for “annulment” predicated on the subjective whims of the spouses, resulting in tentative vows with one eye on the annulment door should “for better or worse” come to the point of “worse”. Remember, behind all of this mischief is the pope’s wild (and irresponsibly public) estimation that half of marriages are invalid anyway, a notion that he first floated in the famous airplane interview following World Youth Day.
Even more disturbing than the attack on marriage is the threat of ecclesiastically sanctioned sacrilege. Once divorced and remarried Catholics with spurious annulments are admitted to holy communion, there will be a push to formally admit everyone else – cohabitators (including same-sex couples), non-Catholics, and ordinary sinners who once thought they needed to be in a state of grace.
The question is: what can be done? We should pray, of course, like we’ve never prayed before, for Our Lord to save His Church and defend His people. But the Catholic faithful – that is, the orthodox core of the Church that receives the Faith with gratitude and guards it with zeal – need to make it clear that they oppose, reject, and condemn unequivocally any “reforms” that undermine the teachings of Jesus Christ on marriage. It is time to speak out, to write, to blog, to study possible responses, to play a little chess. The faithful, who can no longer rely on their pope to defend the truth, will also need a leader or group of leaders to organize them and strengthen their morale. Good priests and bishops who may have been in “wait and see” mode, hoping to teach and sanctify quietly, should consider whether the timing is right to publicly choose their side, speak directly to the crisis, and come to the assistance of the faithful. If the pope’s commission goes his way, and if the Synod goes his way, and if his “reforms” are finally imposed on the Church, I will expect the loyal opposition in the hierarchy to crystallize. Despite growing ecclesiastical confusion, I do believe that clarity is around the corner.
Originally posted on New Sherwood:
One effect of the shrinking modern family is that people today grow up not only with very few siblings, but also with few aunts, uncles, and cousins. The author of this article, Anthony Esolen, has 39 first cousins, twenty of whom grew up in his hometown of 5,000. I have a grand total of three first cousins, none of whom I grew up with, and only one whom I see every now and then. Large extended families like Dr. Esolen’s helped an earlier generation survive the Great Depression. If one household was down on its luck, there was an uncle who owned a business, or a cousin with a spare room, or an aunt with time to babysit. Chances were good that a sizeable number of family members lived close enough to be called in an emergency. If a relationship went sour, as they do even in the best…
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